Saturday, July 01, 2006

More Thoughts On The Hamdan Decision

Just some followup on this week's monumental Supreme Court decision.

President Bush insists he will do a congressional endrun around the decision, getting the legislative branch to make his planned military tribunals legal. Many feel that this could result in a political showdown over the status of the Guantanamo Bay prison. One Republican Senator, John Warner, expressed doubts that a legislative solution for the President could be found, warning "We've got to get it right." Democratic Senator Carl Levin added "Their whole unilateral approach made it more difficult for everybody here, and we're going to have to pick up these pieces. It would have been a lot easier if they had not ignored the Congress and not behaved as if they are the law unto themselves." On that note- the White House putting itself above the law- this ruling was very significant for some, as it weakens the President's argument that the war on terror gives him extra powers, including those used to justify his warrantless spying program.

Some are also looking at the question of whether President Bush has committed war crimes.

The President's defenders, of course, continue to have shockingly little faith in America's system of justice and our ability to overcome great threats with our national dignity intact. They have decried the ruling as a loss for the U.S. in the battle against terrorism and declared it a victory for terrorists and liberals. Darn those Republican-appointed activist Supreme Court judges! No doubt many conservatives will be following Stephen Colbert's call to abolish this gutless branch of government.

The Republican party- ever their minds on maintaining their crumbling hold on Congress- has decided to turn this into a political battle by "serving notice to Democrats that they must back President Bush on how to try suspects at Guantanamo Bay or risk being branded as weak on terrorism." The same article notes, of course, that 71% in a new poll oppose the administration's Guantanamo legal policies. This move only reinforces to me that the Karl Rove/GOP attack machine is a one-trick pony and their act is getting harder to sell.

Their argument is also as weak as it is predictable; this decision is not a victory for terrorists and does not afford them any 'special' rights, as some Republicans are claiming. Any changes to our system (special or otherwise) were made by President Bush himself in a systematic overreach; this is simply our constitutional system self-correcting itself. The ruling has reaffirmed the rule of law in America and that the war on terror does not warrant radical changes in the way our government operates.

President Lincoln suspending habeus corpus in the Civil War and FDR interning innocent Japanese-Americans were both unconstitutional and a stain on our history; they did not help us win those wars and were shameful acts of otherwise excellent Presidents (something which can't be said of W's disastrous reign) who made poor decisions in a time of crisis. Most of us recognize this now (and also recognize that this current, and loosely-defined, war does not compare with those two epic struggles) and have only been trying to keep history from repeating itself. As I stated in my update to yesterday's entry, this decision does not prevent the President from prosecuting or trying suspected terrorists. What it says is that he must do so in accordance with the law and not simply the rules which he makes up at will... Or, as Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, Hamdan's attorney, said to Chris Matthews this week, "[T]o prejudge anyone that we capture outside the country as a thug, why are we having a trial in the first place? We've already decided they were guilty. What the Supreme Court said is you have the trial first, you use the procedures that are set up under international law, and then you decide whether they're a thug. You don't make the thug determination going in."

If the President has been doing everything on the up-and-up, then this should not be a problem for him at all. Of course, the numerous questions surrounding Guantanamo (how many prisoners there are actually terrorists at all, what interrogation methods were used to coerce information, where they were taken from, denial of legal counsel, etc) put him in an awkward position.

President Bush got in that position by himself; the Supreme Court and Democrats are not to blame.

As Glenn Greenwald said in his analysis of the decision, "the Bush administration's excesses of power were dragged into the open, declared illegal, and were powerfully condemned by the highest court in our country. If one doesn't celebrate yesterday's victory, it is difficult to imagine what would be considered a success."

Slate magazine's podcast had a good rountable discussion on this yesterday as well. A lot of good points made on all sides. It's the one entitled "Slate: The Gabfest on Gitmo". One reporter expressed his concerns about labeling all who are in the prison as 'terrorists'. He states, "My sense is that the terrorists, they're keeping in places we don't even know about. That these are the lackeys... but not the true villains who are elsewhere". A suspicion that's likely well-founded.

But once again, I find it's Andrew Sullivan with the best take on the decision. In an entry titled "The De-Throning of King George", he lays out what was really at stake in this case and what the decision means for our country getting back on the right track. I reprint in full-
Absorbing the Hamdan decision today prompts the following thoughts. This is not an unprecedented moment in America's constitutional history. In war-time, presidents have over-reached before, and they will over-reach again. The over-reach is often for good reasons; and after 9/11, it's understandable that some corners were cut. What this decision represents is therefore the re-balancing of the constitutional order, after the heat of the moment. Think of it as the moment when King George's crown was yanked off his head. The Congress has tried a couple of times, but been foiled by "signing statements." So the judiciary has stepped in. Other presidents have tried mini-coronations. What we are seeing is the end of the latest monarchical pretension.

This time, however, the relief is greater for a few reasons. The first is that this war has no clearly defined enemy and no clearly defined end-point. So the presidential over-reach was particularly grave because it threatened a permanent expansion of law-free executive power (which is another word for an elected tyranny). As Orwell understood, a permanent war is integral to the maintenance of tyranny; and in our current predicament, vigilance is warranted perhaps more than in any previous, more discretely formulated conflict.

There is also clear evidence that much of what this president attempted was not simply a good-faith attempt to protect American civilians. It was a deliberate attempt to expand executive authority, promoted by radical theorists of state power, and fomented by a cabal of dead-enders, bent on avenging Nixon. The intent of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Addington, Cambone, Yoo, and the other advocates of an untrammeled executive was the acquisition of unaccountable power. In wartime, such dangerous characters are even more of a threat, because they can use the cover of security to seize new prerogatives. By far the most disturbing aspect of those prerogatives was the power to torture. The ever-lasting stain on this president will be his abandonment of centuries of Anglo-Saxon prohibition of this evil. Eventually, when we discover the full extent of his torture program, we will be able to assess the profound damage he has done to his own country and the civilization which it defends.

Lastly, this is not over. The court decision was relatively close. If Roberts had not already endorsed a quasi-monarchy in a perpetual war, he would have voted with the dissenters. The Republican party, which has become an enemy, rather than a friend, of domestic liberty, cannot wait to place another proponent for an executive-on-steroids on the Supreme Court. When the next attack comes, the possibility exists for another, graver suspension of constitutional liberty. If Bush-style Republicans keep winning the presidency, there is no knowing what permanent suspensions of basic liberties we may confront. There is a balance here, of course. Some loss of liberty is inevitable in a conflict such as the war on terror. Many of those shackled in Gitmo are dangerous, ruthless and barbaric. But many, many are not; and were not detained "on the battlefield" as the president keeps saying. They were picked up often far from battlefields, incarcerated on the flimsiest of evidence, tortured, abused and sent into a black hole of lawless arbitrary power. That is what we are fighting. It is not what we should become. We have been granted a chance to maintain that distinction. But if we do not keep that constantly in our minds, we may lose it. And in losing that distinction, lose ourselves.

What he said.

Plausible Deniability...

...That's how I summarize USA Today's followup on May's bombshell phone record database story.

USA Today: Lawmakers: NSA database incomplete

It's definitely worth reading. At least USA Today is being thorough in their reporting.

[PS- TPM Muckraker analysis:
NSA Phone Database Update: Bellsouth, Verizon Not in Program?

**BIG UPDATE: Another pillar of the President's defense crumbles around him:
Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11, Lawyers Say (Bloomberg)]

Friday, June 30, 2006

Supreme Court Rules Against Gov't In Gitmo Case / Administration Lawyer: “It’s very broad, it’s very significant, and it’s a slam.”

(NOTE: Updated in the middle with some thoughts on critics of the decision.)

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ended its current session by handing down the long-awaited decision in the Guantanamo case- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. The decision declares that President overstepped his authority in some actions surrounding the controversial prison. The ruling was written by Justice Stevens and a concurring opinion by Justice Breyers notes that "Congress has not issued the executive a 'blank check'", something which could have ripple effects on many of the administration's other abuses of power- warrantless wiretapping, etc... The dissenting Justices were- not surprisingly- Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Chief Justice Roberts had to recuse himself from the case because he had already ruled in favor of the government as a lower court judge.

AP: Supreme Court blocks Bush, Gitmo war trials
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The ruling, a strong rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and international Geneva conventions...

That last point now establishes that prisoners in Bush's war on terror are indeed guaranteed Geneva protections that all prisoners of war must receive, much to the chagrin of people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales. As Hamdan's attorney, Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, said on Hardball last night, "It's not whether they deserve [Geneva protections] or not. It's how we conduct ourselves. Where if we say, that our opponent can cause us not to follow the rules anymore, then we've lost who we are. We're the good guys. We're the guys who follow the rules. And the people we fight are the bad guys, and we show that everyday when we follow the rules regardless of what they do. It's what sets us apart. It's what makes us great. And in my mind it's what makes us undefeatable, ultimately."

Andrew Sullivan summarizes the significance of this ruling-
The more you read, the more you see what a body-blow this is to our quasi-monarchical president. The ruling clearly states that the interrogation methods currently authorized by Rumsfeld and the CIA are unlawful. There's also a warning against the over-broad executive interpretation of Congress's Authorization for the Use of Military Force - which implicates the NSA program. Big news, methinks. The Founders have not been disproved. This constitutional system works, even in wartime, and even under an administration with demonstrable contempt for the rule of law.

Translation- Even King President George is not above the rule of law.

Glenn Greenwald twice analyzes the significance of the Hamdan decision, noting that "the Court categorically rejected, and even attacked, the Bush administration's radical theories of unlimited executive power. While it's obviously the case that the decision is far from a silver bullet solution to this administration's abuses of power -- those abuses can be genuinely ended only through political victory, not litigation -- only those attached to the joys of cynicism and defeatism can deny the importance of the Hamdan ruling as a step towards restoring the rule of law in this country... [The decision] imposed meaningful checks and limits on the President's powers, and they resoundingly rejected the plainly un-democratic claim that invocations of 'national security' vest unchecked power in the President."

The President's supporters in the press, meanwhile, deride the Court decision, with the NY Post bloviating that we are in the midst of WWIII and that the ruling turns the Constitution into a "suicide pact". No comment.

Bush's defenders are somehow trying to decry this as a defeat in our struggle against terrorism (because it's the only line of argument they know anymore), but that's illogical as usual. This decision does not prevent the President from prosecuting or trying suspected terrorists. What it says is that he must do so in accordance with the law and not simply the rules which he makes up at will. If the President has been doing everything on the up-and-up, then this should not be a problem for him at all. Of course, the numerous questions surrounding Guantanamo (how many prisoners there are actually terrorists at all, what interrogation methods were used to coerce information, where they were taken from, denial of legal counsel, etc) put him in an awkward position.

In related news, despite earlier statements hinting that the administration would follow the Court's lead in how to proceed with the prison, President Bush insists that he will not be deterred in his Guantanamo plans. Bush, citing the "drive-by briefing" he received on the decision, ran out yesterday afternoon and declared this-
After a Supreme Court decision overruling war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, President Bush suggested Thursday he would seek Congress' approval to proceed with trying terrorism suspects before military tribunals.

"To the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so," he said. "The American people need to know that the ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street."...

Translation- "Don't tell me my business, Supreme Court! I gots evildoers to vanquish!" Senator Frist, not surprisingly, has volunteered to lead this fight in the Senate for the President. Congressional hearings are likely, though with Guantanamo so unpopular, I am curious whether Republicans will want to defend the President's position (or perhaps declare their own way) with elections so soon. And thus the saga continues...

Still, this is a landmark decision and shows this war hasn't completely eroded our principles.

[Related reading:
-NY Times: Ruling Leaves Uncertainty at Guantánamo
-Washington Post analysis: A Governing Philosophy Rebuffed
-SCOTUSblog: Hamdan Summary -- And HUGE News

NY Times timeline infographic: The Supreme Court on Detainee Cases]

The Battle Over Signing Statements

The Senate took a look at the President's unprecedented use of signing statements to circumvent the law this week. No decisions or conclusions appear to have been reached, but here's some links of interest to the debate-

Christian Science Monitor: Debate on Hill over power of the president

Nieman Watchdog: Bush’s signing statements: Constitutional crisis or empty rhetoric?

Crooks and Liars: Cafferty: Bush and his signing statements: He’s the Decider!


-NY Times Op-Ed (Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey): A Secret the Terrorists Already Knew

-AmericaBlog: Bush administration previously told reporters FAR MORE about US efforts to track terrorist finances than the NYT reported last week

-RedStateBlues: Who Told the Terrorists?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

No Sir, This Will Not End Well

That Middle East sure sounds like a fun place...

AOL News: Hamas Leaders Arrested; Israeli Executed

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Final Thoughts Before Bed

Josh Marshall, take it away-
So on exporting democracy ...

1. President encourages supporters to accuse newspaper reporters of treason: check.

2. President mandates systematic use of torture: check.

3. President routinely asserts right to ignore laws passed by Congress: check.

What am I missing?

Actually, I think it's more one of those trick questions. Like, we're not exporting 'democracy' but our democracy. So, as we send it to them, we lose ours.

What he said.

[Semi-related reading: Salon War Room- 50,000]

White House Declares War On NY Times / Cheney: "David Brooks Will Greet Us As A Liberator"

I figured since this whole NY Times controversy is creating so much buzz, I'd throw in my two or three cents. Given the (predictable) insanity from the right on this- not to mention a) the huge hypocrisy in ignoring that long-time conservative paper Wall Street Journal published the same information, and b) the fact that the basic information revealed in these stories has been discussed by the President and others as far back as 2001 - I think it's clear that much of this controversy is manufactured. Make no mistake, this is a full-scale attack on freedom of the press disguised as a wartime secrecy issue.

Any semblence of a legitimate and honest debate over whether the newspapers should've published these stories has been destroyed by the right's vitriol and insane charges of treason. On this note, I believe Andrew Sullivan has written one of the better and more succint takes on this whole brouhaha that I read yesterday. In full-
I confess to being a little bemused by the hysteria in some parts of the blogosphere about the NYT publishing details of the government's close monitoring of some financial transactions in the war on terror. I should qualify that by saying that the argument against the press is the strongest I've yet read in any of these cases. Unlike the NSA wire-tapping program, or the secret torture prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, this program does not seem to be illegal, or only legal under the doctrine that anything the president does in the war is de facto legal. It seems carefully structured to prevent abuse of privacy, it appears to have been effective (although you and I have no way of knowing for sure). If I were Bill Keller (fat chance, I know), I probably wouldn't publish.

On the other hand, publishing it does not, it seems to me, obviously render the program ineffective. And the Malkinesque charges of treason seem a little, er, excitable. The press publishes stuff that doesn't always help the government in wartime. Duh. In a democracy, in a war which has sharply divided the country, this is hardly a big surprise. If the NYT didn't do it, someone in the government would find a way to leak it in another way. One wonders what would happen in Power Line's perfect world, where the MSM always followed the government's advice in wartime, suppressed news of defeats and setbacks, and avoided any damaging revelations that might encourage the enemy or inform citizens of government errors or abuses. Let's say someone within the administration still wanted to leak the program. Wouldn't they just give the info to an anti-Bush blogger? And would the damage be any less than it is - in today's media universe? In a paradoxical way, some bloggers both want to dismiss the NYT and then describe it as the essential gateway for all important information. It cannot be both. In today's transparent, web-based media, wars are just going to be subject to more scrutiny - especially divisive wars, run by controversial presidents, with as many opponents within the government as outside it. Get used to it. And take a Xanax.

Sounds right. Ms. Malkin will likely respond by calling him a libaloon moonbat, though.

That's the level of these debate on that side.

Meanwhile Sullivan later posts an email he received that shares my cynical suspicion that the White House is actually reveling in this leak... it allows them to a) appear tough on terror in a way that- for once- makes sense, and b) allows the right-wing base to get energized in the latest round of demanding the destruction of the NY Times, one of their favorite scapegoats. Both of those things are especially helpful to the administration as their big bust of a group of Miami-based 'terrorists' turns out to be much ado about nothing.

Don't believe the hype- Bush and Cheney are smiling big right now over all of this.

[Related reading:
-Glenn Greenwald: The Bush lynch mob against the nation's free press
-Robert Scheer: "Disgracefully" Attacking the New York Times
-Editor & Publisher: Tony Snow Tells E&P: 'NYT' Deserves Special Criticism
-Arianna Huffington: The Times Remembers Where Its True Loyalties Lie -- With the Public
-Greg Sargent: White House Assault on Bill Keller and Times Is Just Bluster for the Boneheads

Keith Olbermann also did a good report the other night.]

Stop The Train, I Wanna Get Off

Sometimes you can come across a story so intellectually depressing, you feel a little part of your soul die. This is one such story. Just as their flag-burning ban amendment burned up (after defeats on gay marriage and stalls on immigration), the Republican party digs deeper into the bag of base-riling tricks in further efforts to hold onto their majority in Congress by... revealing how little actual work they do?

AP: House GOP to focus on abortion, guns
House Republicans intend to hold votes this summer and fall touching on abortion, guns, religion and other priority issues for social conservatives, part of an attempt to improve the party's prospects in the midterm elections.

The "American Values Agenda" also includes a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage — which already has failed in the Senate — a prohibition on human cloning and possibly votes on several popular tax cuts.

"Radical courts have attempted to gut our religious freedom and redefine the value system on which America was built. We hope to restore some of those basic values through passing this legislative agenda and renewing our country's commitment to faith, freedom and life," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Tuesday...


Good to see they're focused on the important issues that affect our lives.

Less of that, please, and more of this-
Democrats maneuvered successfully last week for a Senate vote on raising the minimum wage. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the party's leader, said Tuesday they would "do everything within our power to stop a congressional pay raise from going through this year, and we're going to tie it to minimum wage."

On another issue, Democratic congressional leaders held a news conference during the day to unveil legislation calling for major changes in the new Medicare prescription drug program. "We will put seniors and people with disabilities first by bringing affordability, simplicity and reliability to the benefit," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader.

The proposal would allow federal officials to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices, and Democrats said the resulting savings would allow the government to eliminate a gap in coverage for many beneficiaries.

[sarcasm] Why the Democrats think focusing on the incomes and healthcare of millions of Americans rather than the potential outrage due to a small handful of constitutionally-protected flag burners makes for a great way to get elected by the American people is beyond me. [/sarcasm] (*)

[*The real sad thing is the Republicans' way may still end up winning out...]

[Previous entry: Christians To GOP: We Notice You Haven't Pandered To Us Enough Lately]

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hey Baby, Wanna Kill All The Humans?

This commercial for "An Inconvenient Truth" is the best ever-

[click thumbnail for link]

Hop on your Scooty-Puff Jr. and get to the theatre today!

[PS- The global warming 'film strip' from an episode of Futurama that was shown in "An Inconvenient Truth" can be viewed- here.]

We're Through The Looking Glass Here, Folks

This is an actual headline...

AP: Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress

What a sad state that this is just another headline and not a national scandal.

[PS- Sen. Specter, in typical fashion, will hold hearings on the President's continued use of signing statements to circumvent the law, but says that he is unsure of what Congress can actually do to check the President... Arlen, if you would actually grow a spine, you'd realize that there are plenty of oversight options available to congressional leaders, not the least of which is to stand behind Sen. Feingold in his call for censure. Just a friendly reminder.

Related reading: The Bush code of secrecy-
How the White House is covering up CIA abductions, brutal interrogations and spying on Americans.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Quote of the Day

"I’m very afraid that we are just going to have a blank page in terms of the history of this country that when the President asserted an outrageous grab of executive power we did nothing...

The extreme claim that, under Article Two of the Constitution, the President can make up whatever laws he wants is one of the greatest threats to our system of government… When the founders wrote the words 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' they weren’t particularly interested in break-ins at the Watergate Plaza or presidential personal misconduct. What they wanted was a different system of government than they had under King George III and that’s what this is all about. The President is asserting claims that have, frankly, I don’t think have ever been made in the history of this country."
-Sen. Russ Feingold, on yesterday's 'Meet The Press'

What he said.

Video here- Feingold Doesn’t Support Lieberman — Hammers Bush/Cheney

[Related- Bob Cesca:
Russert Watch: Come On, People. Admit It. Senator Feingold Is the Real Deal for '08]

The White House Was Against Timetables...

...Before they were for them?

Limited troops withdrawals are set to begin this September.

Say, that's a few weeks before the elections! What great timing, no? :D

Note that the goal was always to reduce troop levels somewhat right before the election. We've heard rumblings of this before. So why the vicious attacks on Democrats who- to varying degrees- were demanding exit strategies and timetables for phased withdrawals? Because the White House knows the war is unpopular and that the vast majority of Americans want to see troops beginning to return home as soon as possible. So they knock the Democrats down for wanting a change so that it doesn't look like it was they who forced the issue, institute their own changes closer to the midterms, and hope to take all the credit. It'd be sadder if it wasn't so predictable.

Democrats need to stand up for themselves on this very important issue; as Josh Marshall noted, they haven't done the best job thus far.

UPDATE: Uh oh, the White House is mad that Gen. Casey spoiled their October surprise-
White House plays down Iraq withdrawal talk (AP)

UPDATE #2: New polls show a majority lean toward the Democratic position on Iraq-
Poll: Majority of Americans want withdrawal plan for Iraq

[PS- Curiouser and curiouser- This AP article was titled "Iraq PM wants timeline on security handoff" when I bookmarked it yesterday. Now the title is "Iraqi PM sets no deadline for U.S. exit". Did the White House ask the PM for a flip-flop on timetables? Why, if I were a cynical man, I might say yes... ]

The Saga Continues

Another major revelation to add to the pile-

NY Times: Bank Data Secretly Reviewed by U.S. to Fight Terror
Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas or into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database...

...The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers[*], Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift...

Now if this program existed in a vacuum, I might be willing to blow it off as a questionable, but well-intentioned counterterror program. Fight smarter, not harder and all that. I personally believe that going after the funding and finances of terror organizations is actually a far-better way of undermining them than, ohhhh say, preemptively invading a country unrelated to the 9/11 attack. If the program was done with complete legal authority and with approval from the other branches, I'd be willing to dismiss much of the controversy here.

But the reason that this story is so significant is that it does not exist by itself. It is part of a larger system of Big Brother run amok- with warrantless wiretapping, phone records databases, internet record databases, Total Information Awareness, reporters being surveilled, etc- designed by people at the top of the executive branch who saw their war on terror as merely a means to permanently expand Presidential power beyond its constitutional limits. The goal of all of this is, as blogger BooMan notes, "us[ing] 9/11 to take us back to a pre-Watergate situation where the intelligence agencies do whatever they want and Congress need not know boo about it." These men pose a serious danger to our system of government and if you even try to challenge them, you are accused of undermining the war, being unpatriotic, and of having some sort of 'derangement syndrome'.

As proof of that, one need to look no further than the reaction to this story from the President's most ardent defenders. Was their reaction, as conservatives naturally inclined to distrust big government, that this program represented further proof that basic privacy rights may be one of the most significant victims in Bush's war on terror? Or was it that the papers that reported this program- NY Times, LA Times, and others- had committed treason and should be locked up for their insidious crime? If you guessed the latter, pat yourself on the back. Michelle Malkin was having fun pretending we were in WWII with some photoshopped propaganda posters. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has called on the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation into the papers' activities. It was left to Arlen Specter (and the usual bloggers) to state the obvious that this would be a dangerous line to cross. All of this ignores that the right's beloved Wall Street Journal printed the same information as well- silence on that fact, because this story is just an avenue for the right to engage in another round of press treason accusations.

And not only has this administration stretched the limits of executive power beyond what previous administrations have, it has taken it to a new extreme- their mindboggling Orwellian assertion that neither Congress nor the courts have the right to know the details of what they are doing or to exert oversight on their activities. They have been aided in these efforts by a Republican-party rule in Washington that has been too fearful of the political backlash of taking on their own President. And so it is validated by the silence in the Capitol.

As proof that this story doesn't walk alone, here's some other related revelations-

Salon: Is the NSA spying on U.S. Internet traffic?

-Salon exclusive: Two former AT&T employees say the telecom giant has maintained a secret, highly secure room in St. Louis since 2002. Intelligence experts say it bears the earmarks of a National Security Agency operation.

-AP: AP: Police got phone data from brokers

-AP: Analysis: CIA program expands Bush's power

Feel safer yet?

Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, looks optimistically at signs that congressional oversight may be near. I, unfortunately, do not share his optimism. As long as the President's party has complete power in Washington DC, these revelations will not be met with much action.

[*- Emergency powers? Anything that reminds me of Emperor Palpatine's rise to power can't be good.]

Links of the Day

Hey, it's Monday! How 'bout that?

Start off the week with some links...

-To amnesty or not to amnesty? That is the question:
Iraq amnesty offer upsets U.S. lawmakers

-Wanted to meet the President? Talk to Grover Norquist, he knows a guy named Jack...
E-mails detail Abramoff requests, contacts

-Finally, America celebrates gay pride as society manages not to implode in the process:
Gay pride parades held across nation

Ignorance Was White House Bliss In Runup To War

Another report confirming what we already suspected all along...

Washington Post: Warnings on WMD 'Fabricator' Were Ignored, Ex-CIA Aide Says
In late January 2003, as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to argue the Bush administration's case against Iraq at the United Nations, veteran CIA officer Tyler Drumheller sat down with a classified draft of Powell's speech to look for errors. He found a whopper: a claim about mobile biological labs built by Iraq for germ warfare.

Drumheller instantly recognized the source, an Iraqi defector suspected of being mentally unstable and a liar. The CIA officer took his pen, he recounted in an interview, and crossed out the whole paragraph.

A few days later, the lines were back in the speech. Powell stood before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 and said: "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails."

The sentence took Drumheller completely by surprise.

"We thought we had taken care of the problem," said the man who was the CIA's European operations chief before retiring last year, "but I turn on the television and there it was, again."...

[Bold added by moi for emphasis]

Ignoring the facts makes it easier to lie.

Sen. Reid has promised that if the Democrats take the Senate in the elections, he will open a bipartisan committee to look at the pre-war intelligence and how it was handled. I think we need this badly. He's been trying to start one now, but the Republican leaders obviously have not allowed it. Whether one supports the war or not, getting to the bottom of all of this is absolutely necessary.

Given all we have learned, one might be inclined to conclude that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".

[See also earlier Curveball revelations from last November:
New Report Throws White House A Curveball]

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Weekend Funnies